Damian Lillard shares mindset after clutch performance in Bucks win over Timberwolves

Milwaukee Bucks v Minnesota Timberwolves
Milwaukee Bucks v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages

Coming out of the NBA All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks faced a challenge right out of the gate with the Minnesota Timberwolves on the schedule.

Minnesota has been one of the best team's in the association this season. boasting a defense that has elite characteristics. For the Bucks, who had been 3-7 in their last 10 contests, getting back in the win column would be a tall task against a formidable foe, particularly with Khris Middleton still sidelined due to an ankle injury.

The Bucks came out looking like a team looking to break out of their slump, having never trailed in the first quarter. Minnesota fought back in the second to take a lead of their own, but the third quarter is where sparks truly started flying. Milwaukee went on an impressive 20-2 run to close the third frame, building a 17-point lead.

Though the Timberwolves made a late run and cut things close, the Bucks managed to hang on and win their first game out of the break 112-107.

Damian Lillard shares mindset after clutch performance in Bucks win over Timberwolves

Following the game, Damian Lillard said, "I think sometimes that the toughest way is the way to go. You know, when you want to turn things around, played against the best team in the West on the road coming out of this break. This is how you want it to happen to get over that bump and get going in the right direction. We need it."

The Bucks must embrace that mindset permanently moving forward, as things won't be getting much easier anytime soon. Per Tankathon, Milwaukee has the fourth-hardest strength of schedule left in the NBA this season, with multiple matchups against teams like the Boston Celtics and OKC Thunder on the schedule.

If Milwaukee can get clutch performances out of Lillard like did they against Minnesota, it would help them against these tough foes. Lillard had a rough start to the contest, unable to throw a rock in the ocean to start, but he flipped the switch late. Entering the fourth quarter with 12 points, Lillard tallied nine more in the final 12 minutes courtesy of a masterclass in tough shot-making.

Lillard's biggest shot came in the closing moments. With Milwaukee holding onto a 3-point lead and possessing the ball, the guard deflated the entire Minnesota arena by sinking a step-back jumper to ice the game and put the Bucks up by five. These clutch heroics are nothing new for Lillard, but the Bucks need him to build off of it and be better for the entire game, not just the final few minutes.

In total, Lillard finished with a near triple double by tallying 21 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds.

Despite Lillard's clutch play, Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way by notching 33 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. He was extremely efficient against this formidable defense, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor. He got a massive boost from the foul line, hitting 14 of his 21 attempts as he went there again and again. Giannis was clutch, hitting seven of his eight free throws in the final four minutes.

Brook Lopez and Malik Beasley gave the team a jolt, combining to shoot 8-of-19 from long distance while scoring 30 points. Bobby Portis (14 points, five rebounds) and Pat Connaughton (Eight points, four rebounds) gave Milwaukee a needed spark off of the bench, playing like the reserves this team has needed them to be this season.

Danilo Gallinari, who was making his Bucks debut after recently coming aboard, played just under five minutes in this one and didn't put much positive tape on film. The forward missed his lone shot attempt and had two personal fouls and a turnover. A debut game right out of the All-Star break is not the perfect way to judge a player, as Gallinari can surely help this team.

Milwaukee's defense showed strong flashes in this one. Anthony Edwards shot just 10-of-27 from the floor as he was hounded by the Bucks all night. Karl-Anthony Towns was just 9-of-22, including 3-of-9 from long range. Not all of that can be attributed to Milwaukee, as slumps can happen, but there was clearly some effort there from the Bucks. They certainly need to keep it up moving forward.

This was a tremendous win for the Bucks against a great opponent, but the must now use it to keep the ball rolling moving forward.

Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.